Britain's biggest broadband and phone firms to put fairness first
Jun 3, 2019
The UK’s biggest broadband, phone and pay TV companies have committed to put fairness at the heart of their business, after signing up to Ofcom’s new Fairness for Customers commitments.
Ofcom has developed the commitments to strengthen how companies treat their customers. They aim to help ensure people are always treated fairly by their provider – whether they are signing up to a new deal, trying to fix a problem or switching to a new company.
All of the UK’s biggest providers have signed-up to the commitments including: BT; EE; Giffgaff; O2; Plusnet; Post Office; Sky; TalkTalk; Tesco Mobile; Three; Virgin Media and Vodafone. This covers the vast majority of broadband, mobile, pay-TV and home phone customers.
Sharon White, Ofcom Chief Executive, said: “I welcome the commitments the providers have made, and the action they’re taking to ensure customers are treated fairly every step of the way.
“Great service cannot be optional. It has to be the norm. That hasn’t always happened in the past in broadband and mobile services, but there is now a growing belief from providers that putting customers first is paramount.”
Margot James, Minister for Digital, said: “I’m pleased that all the major telecoms providers have signed up to Ofcom’s commitments today. They will not only help consumers get fairer deals, but will support competition by making sure providers work to the same objectives and compete on standards.”
Caroline Normand, Which? Director of Advocacy, said: “Until now too many people have received a raw deal from their broadband or mobile phone supplier. So it’s a positive step that all the major players have signed up to Ofcom's new fairness commitments.
"Confusing and unfair terms, poor customer support and overcharging are just some of the problems people tell us they have experienced. Providers now have the opportunity to make things right for their customers by committing to offer good service, fair treatment and a straightforward solution when things go wrong.
“If you are unhappy with your current provider or think you are paying too much you should look to switch. A few minutes of your time could save you a lot of hassle and possibly hundreds of pounds a year.”
All three will be speaking on these points at a joint Ofcom and Which? event on Fairness for Customers today (Monday 3 June). This will bring together Ofcom, the UK’s leading communications companies, government, consumer groups and charities to promote fairness across the industry.
The commitments in full
- Customers get a fair deal, which is right for their needs. Providers offer customers packages that fit their needs and have a fair approach to pricing. Prices are clear and easy to understand;
- Customers get the support they need when their circumstances make them vulnerable. Providers understand and identify the characteristics, circumstances and needs of vulnerable customers - such as vulnerability due to a disability, age, mental illness or having recently been bereaved - and act to give them fair treatment and equal access to services too;
- Customers are supported to make well-informed decisions with clear information about their options before, during, and at the end of their contract. Providers design and send communications in a way that reflects an understanding of how customers generally react to information so that they can understand and engage with the market;
- Customers’ services work as promised, reliably over time. If things go wrong providers give a prompt response to fix problems and take appropriate action to help their customers, which may include providing compensation where relevant. If providers can’t fix problems with core services they have promised to deliver within a reasonable period, customers can walk away from their contract with no penalty;
- Customers can sign up to, change and leave their services quickly and smoothly. Providers ensure that customers who are leaving do not face additional barriers or hassle compared to those who are signing up to new services;
- Customers can be confident that fair treatment is a central part of their provider’s culture. Companies can demonstrate that they have the right procedures in place to ensure customers are treated well. They keep these effective and up-to-date.
The commitments are a vital part of Ofcom’s work to help ensure companies treat their customers fairly. Many are already underpinned by existing consumer law and Ofcom’s rules. We will be monitoring companies’ practices closely and will step in where we see firms falling short.
We will also publish a progress report next year, reviewing whether companies are delivering what they have promised. This is alongside our regular reporting on customer complaints and satisfaction.
Ofcom's Fairness for Customers programme
The commitments represent the latest action from Ofcom’s Fairness for Customers programme, which also includes:
- money back for broadband and landline customers when things go wrong;
- clear, honest information for broadband shoppers – before they commit to a contract – about what speeds they will get;
- confirming new rules to make sure people get the right information, at the right time to find the best deal for them;
- a major information campaign, Boost Your Broadband, to help people get faster broadband and save money; and
- new rules from 1 July so mobile phone customers can change their provider with a simple text.
Further ongoing work includes proposals to ensure clearer, fairer deals for people who buy mobile handsets bundled alongside airtime. We will announce the next steps for this later this summer.
We are also continuing our review of broadband pricing, which looks at why some people pay more than others – particularly those who may find themselves in vulnerable circumstances. We expect to publish our findings on this in the autumn.
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